Putting driver health first

Road Safety
The importance of being aware of driver health and wellbeing should not be underestimated. Tom Austin-Morgan investigates some of the ways that operators can manage drivers and help prevent issues overwhelming their work life and performance
(Image credit: AdobeSrtock by littlewolf1989)
Effective driver management goes beyond ensuring timely deliveries and adhering to regulatory standards. It involves prioritising the health and wellbeing of drivers and acknowledging them as invaluable assets to the transportation industry. 
Unlike telematics systems that can tell you exactly how a vehicle is being driven, monitoring stress, fatigue and fitness levels in drivers is not so easy. However, factors relating to driver health have huge impacts. Driving is physically and mentally demanding work requiring dexterity, hand-eye-co-ordination and stamina. As such, the impact of the workload should be taken seriously.
A survey published by Webfleet brought to light some sobering statistics:
20% of accidents on major roadways are sleep-related – and 40% of sleep-related accidents involve commercial vehicles;
•  One in 10 people who drive a vehicle for work purposes admit they’ve fallen asleep behind the wheel;
A mildly dehydrated driver will make twice as many errors;
27% of drivers drink just five to six cups of water per day and 19% drink four to five. The medically recommended minimum is eight;
60% of professional drivers in the UK eat and drink the majority of their food in their vehicles and 56% consider themselves overweight;
•  10% of drivers say they’ve quit a job because of stress and 25% say they have considered it;
26% of truckers report feeling depressed and 14% report feeling anxiety.

There are several aspects of work where fleet managers can help their drivers remain healthy and fit for work. Here is a selection.
Healthy initiatives and benefits 

Consider integrating a nutrition workshop into the onboarding agenda, providing new hires with valuable insights into healthy eating habits. Additionally, extend an offer of complimentary or reduced-rate gym memberships to new employees as part of their welcome package. Furthermore, establish a corporate sports team to promote and incentivise healthier lifestyles among staff members.
Regular mind and body checks

Several transport companies have implemented a voluntary health screening programme for their drivers. This initiative aims to detect early signs of common health issues prevalent in the profession, such as hypertension, obesity, diabetes, stress and depression. Drivers identified as at-risk can then receive tailored support and encouragement to address their health concerns, which may include temporary leave from work in severe cases.

Hydration, food and drink

It‘s essential to encourage drivers to take their meal breaks outside their cab, preferably seated at a table, allowing enough time to properly digest their food before returning to work. Skipping meals – especially breakfast – should be strongly discouraged, as the initial time saved is outweighed by the dangerous energy crash later in the day when the body runs out of fuel.

Similarly, sugary snacks that provide a short-term energy boost followed by a prolonged crash should be entirely avoided while on duty. Instead, recommend options such as apples, walnuts, dark chocolate and wholegrain crackers with cheese. These alternatives have been proven to sustain alertness levels for longer periods, promoting safer driving practices.
A cleaner and more comfortable environment

Simple additions can contribute to the wellbeing of truck drivers. Equipping them with items such as driving gloves, a noise-cancelling phone headset, a portable vacuum cleaner, hand sanitiser and basic grooming tools can enhance their comfort and sense of freshness. These small amenities can transform the cab into a more relaxed and stress-free environment for drivers, promoting their overall health and wellbeing.
Plan and schedule realistically

Efficient planning and scheduling are effective strategies for reducing driver stress. By establishing reliable routes and providing manageable estimated times of arrival, you can help prevent drivers from feeling overwhelmed by their workload. This approach promotes a sense of confidence and control, allowing drivers to focus on their tasks without unnecessary stress or pressure.

Before purchasing or leasing new vehicles, it‘s crucial to consider ergonomic factors such as driving position and accessibility of controls. Ensuring that drivers’ health and safety are not compromised by an inappropriate seating position or driving posture is paramount. Provide drivers with guidance on maintaining good posture and, when necessary, instruct them on properly adjusting their seats. This proactive approach helps mitigate the risk of discomfort or injury and promotes a safer and more comfortable driving experience.

Struggling with stress?

A new text-based support initiative has been launched to assist HGV drivers in coping with job-related stress, with the Road Haulage Association (RHA) partnering as a campaign associate. Drivers can send a free and confidential text message to access health support: text ‘BeAMate‘ to 85258. The service is facilitated by Mates in Mind, an associate of the Working Minds campaign, established by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Laura Taylor, HR director at the RHA, says: “We recognise that our employees’ mental health wellbeing is not just a personal concern to them but a vital component of our collective success as an organisation. “Therefore, supporting mental health is not just a token initiative for us but a commitment to nurturing an environment where all employees feel valued, understood and empowered,” she adds.


Workers must understand the dangers of fatigue and know what steps to take if they begin to feel sleepy. Fatigue slows reaction time and diminishes vigilance, alertness and concentration, all of which impair driving ability. Additionally, it can impact the speed of information processing and the quality of decision-making.

Drivers and riders are most likely to suffer from fatigue: on long journeys on monotonous roads, such as motorways; between 2am and 6am or 2pm and 4pm; after eating and after long working hours or on journeys home after long shifts, especially night shifts.
Operational responsibility

The HSE further emphasises that operators must ensure their workers are fit to drive and possess any necessary medical certificates required by law. Workers should meet the eyesight and other health requirements outlined in the Highway Code and by the DVLA. They should also be encouraged to report any health concerns and consult with their GP if they are uncertain whether any medications they take could affect their judgment.

By leveraging these insights operators can implement strategies to monitor driver health, prevent fatigue and stress, promote mental health support, encourage healthy habits and provide ongoing training and education. 

By investing in the human aspect of driver management, operators can not only improve safety and productivity but also foster a culture of care and support within their organisations. 

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